Two friends, John Doe and Defendant Diver went diving on the West Coast. The two friends travelled to nearby reef onboard a diving ship owned by Defendant Owner. Defendant Owner permitted Defendant Diver to use the boat, knowing he was going to dive with John Doe using a hookah rig, a surface supplied air system.
Defendant Diver was a PADI-certified scuba diver. John Doe was neither scuba certified nor experienced with a hookah rig. Despite this, Defendant Diver gave John Doe a diving weight to place inside his wetsuit, a dangerous practice because it prevents divers from quickly releasing the weight if in distress.
On their second dive of the day, Defendant Diver became tired and exited the water, boarding the diving boat and leaving John Doe in 30-40 foot deep water. While below deck, Defendant Diver heard noises and returned topside to find John Doe in distress in the water.
Defendant Diver did not jump in to help his friend, nor did he provide a floatation device. Defendant Diver feared that John Doe would drag him under if he entered the water.
Instead, Defendant Diver broadcasted an emergency “mayday” to the United States Coast Guard and remained on the boat, watching as John Doe submerged in the water.
The Coast Guard arrived and found John Doe at the bottom of the ocean. Unfortunately, John Doe was later pronounced dead by drowning.
Defendant Diver was determined to be liable for gross negligence and causing the death of John Doe. In addition, there was a violation of the Fish and Game Code. It was determined that the two had been illegally fishing.
Defendant Owner of the diving boat was also legally liable for John Doe’s death. She negligently loaned the boat and her equipment to the two friends going diving at the Reef, despite knowing John Doe was not certified to scuba dive and was inexperienced with the equipment.
John Doe’s family proceeded with a lawsuit against the Defendant Diver and Defendant Owner. This case presented complex issues of maritime law, employer negligence, and violation of Fish and Game regulations.
The case was resolved with a monetary settlement for the family of John Doe.